Thunder Rides a Black Horse: Mescalero Apaches and the Mythic Present by Claire R. Farrer
124 pages, $21.95 list
eBook availability
Thunder Rides a Black Horse
Mescalero Apaches and the Mythic Present
Third Edition
Thunder’s focus on the ways in which old myths and legends inform actions and beliefs on a contemporary Indian reservation in the American Southwest has established it as an ideal supplement for introductory classes in Native American studies, anthropology, crosscultural religion, folklore, and discourse analysis. As one reviewer states, “Knowledge and understanding about human cultural variation and possibilities just flows.” The current edition includes valuable updates of reservation life and the author’s fictive family members at Mescalero.

The compelling four-day and four-night Mescalero Apache girls’ puberty ceremonial remains the backdrop of Farrer’s interpretive discussion of time and the mythic present. The oral traditions and instructions given to her by the late Bernard Second, her longtime Apache teacher, provide insight into the importance of narrative not just in ceremonials but also in daily life.

Farrer neither romanticizes nor patronizes the Apachean people, who are presented as people with foibles as well as possessing much worthy of admiration. The Third Edition incorporates a fully developed concluding chapter—“Returning”—and furnishes thoughtful, end-of-chapter questions to prompt readers to explore their own reactions to the text.
"This looks like a compelling story. I appreciate the focus on a particular religious ritual practice. I also appreciate that the author updated the book with a personal note. I look forward to introducing my Indigenous Religions students to this Mescalero Apache community and ritual." — Barbara Darling-Smith, Wheaton College

"For undergraduates curious about ethnographers' experiences, or interested in American Indian cultures, the book will be easily comprehended. Many students will be surprised that Apaches persist as living communities." — Cosmos

"I have used the book various times over the last couple of decades and always find that to do so is a successful strategy. The book is interestingly written and engaging." — Richard O. Clemmer-Smith, University of Denver

"Foremost among the volume's many strengths is its engaging, highly readable, reflexive writing style. Descriptions of sights, smells, sounds, and colors are vivid, and the people come alive." —Charlotte J. Frisbie, American Anthropologist

"Farrer's latest book crystallizes her previous work into its most powerful form to date . . . It comes as a surprise to recognize, after finishing it, how much deep knowledge it has imparted and how cleverly it is constructed. It creates the ambience for the reader to enter the Apache mythic present." —Anthropology and Humanism
Table of Contents
1. Time and the Mythic Present
2. Arriving
3. On Forming Women: Ceremonial Day One
4. "Ko'io!"/Go Around!: Ceremonial Day Two
5. "I will give you bow and arrow . . . a flint knife . . . I will make a horse for you . . .": Ceremonial Day Three
6. "You are the mother of a people. Let no man speak ill of you.": Ceremonial Day Four
7. Going Home
8. Returning